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Work Permit in USA for Nigerians

The US has a wide range of work permits for various types of work and different categories of immigrants.

IAS’ friendly immigration lawyers can help you obtain a US work permit. We work in both the US and from our office in Lagos. Reach out to us on +44 (0) 3316300929 or +23413438882 if you’re in Nigeria. Or, contact us online.

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    Looking to Work in the US?

    If you are a Nigerian citizen looking to work in the US, IAS can help. Our immigration advisers can assist you in determining which work permit is the best fit for you and your circumstances.

    Getting a US work permit needn’t be a hassle. Let IAS help you on your journey from Nigeria to the US.

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    Overview of US Work Permits

    A US work permit is a document that will allow its holder to work in the United States.

    There are various types of work permits covering a wide range of roles and specialisms. Each permit will also have its own specific eligibility criteria and restrictions on what you can and cannot do.

    Generally, there are two types of US work permit:

    • Temporary (Nonimmigrant) Worker
    • Permanent (Immigrant) Worker

    Temporary (Nonimmigrant) work permits are for applicants who wish to work in the US on a temporary basis. These permits will have a fixed period of validity, after which you will need to leave the US and return back to your home country.

    Permanent (Immigrant) work permits are for applicants who wish to live and work in the US on a permanent basis. These are also known as “Green Card” work permits.

    Temporary (Nonimmigrant) Worker Permits

    If you’re a Nigerian who wishes to work in the US for a fixed period of time and don’t intend on settling in the US on a permanent basis, a Temporary (Nonimmigrant) worker permit may be the right fit for you.

    These permits cover a wide variety of professions and roles, and generally allow the holder to stay in the US from anything to a few months to several years.

    Most temporary work permits in the US will require you to first have a confirmed offer of employment from an eligible US employer. The employer must then file a petition to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on your behalf.

    After this petition is approved, you can then apply for your visa from your local US embassy or consulate.

    List of Temporary (Nonimmigrant) Worker Permits

    Below is a list of most of the Temporary (Nonimmigrant) Worker permits that the US offers as of June 2023.

    Note that this is not an exhaustive list of every single temporary work permit, but rather a list of the ones that Nigerian citizens will be most likely to be able to apply for. For this reason, visas that are only open to applicants from certain countries or territories have been omitted from this list, as Nigerian citizens are unlikely to be eligible for these.

    Visa Name Who Is This Visa For?
    H-1B Specialty Occupations, DOD Cooperative Research and Development Project Workers, and Fashion Models Highly qualified individuals who work in jobs requiring specialist knowledge
    H-3 Nonimmigrant Trainee or Special Education Exchange Visitor Individuals seeking to receiving specialist training or special educational exchanges
    I Representatives of Foreign Media Workers representing foreign media outlets such as press, radio, TV or film
    L-1A Intracompany Transferee Executive or Manager Executives or managers transferring from a foreign branch of their company to a US one, or travelling to establish a US branch
    L-1B Intracompany Transferee Specialized Knowledge Employees of a US company with specialised knowledge transferring to a US branch, or to help establish a US branch
    O-1 Individuals with Extraordinary Ability or Achievement Individuals with extraordinary ability or talent in certain sectors
    P-1A Internationally Recognized Athlete Professional or high-performing athletes or coaches
    P-1B A Member of an Internationally Recognized Entertainment Group Members of well-established, internationally recognised entertainment groups
    P-2 Performer or Group Performing under Reciprocal Exchange Program Artists and entertainers looking to perform as part of a reciprocal exchange program
    P-3 Artist or Entertainer Coming to Be Part of a Culturally Unique Program Individuals developing, interpreting, representing, coaching, or teaching a unique or traditional ethnic, folk, cultural, musical, theatrical, or artistic performance or presentation
    Q Cultural Exchange Individuals participating in international cultural exchange programmes
    R-1 Temporary Religious Workers Individuals looking to work as a minister or in a religious vocation or occupation

    Let our expert team guide you through the process, and support needed for a successful work permit application. Contact Us

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      What Are the Eligibility Criteria for Temporary Worker Permits?

      Due to the various and wide-reaching nature of US temporary worker permits, each permit will have its own specific eligibility criteria that you will have to fulfil.

      However, generally speaking, eligibility criteria for permits may cover the following key areas:

      • Your own skills, knowledge, talent or occupations and if it fits within the necessary requirements of that specific permit
      • Your employer or sponsor and if they fit the eligibility criteria for that specific permit
      • The nature of the work you intend to do in the US and if it’s valid under that specific permit
      • Your eligibility to enter the US based on the country’s general immigration guidelines
      • If your employer has successfully obtained a Labor Condition Application (LCA) certified by the Department of Labor (if necessary)

      It’s important to carefully read the eligibility criteria for each permit to ensure that you have met all of the requirements before applying.

      How Can I Apply for a Temporary Worker Permit?

      Most temporary worker permits will require your employer to submit a petition to USCIS on your behalf.

      The only work permit listed in the previous list that does not have this requirement is the I Representatives of Foreign Media work permit.

      The employer must fill in Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker. They may also have to provide additional information to USCIS at this stage in order to successfully have the petition approved.

      Once USCIS approves the petition, you will receive a Notice of Action, Form I-797 or Petition Receipt number. You will then need this to apply for your chosen temporary work visa from the US Department of State (DOS).

      You must fill out Form DS-160 ( Nonimmigrant Visa Application), pay the fees and schedule an interview with your local US embassy or consulate. Interviews are mandatory for all applicants aged 14 to 79.

      For Nigerian citizens, there are two US consulates operating in Abuja and Lagos.

      After your interview, the consular officer will review your application and either approve or reject your visa application.

      What Are the Required Documents for a Temporary Worker Permit?

      The documents you will need to submit with your temporary worker permit may include (but not be limited to) the following:

      • Confirmation page of Form DS-160
      • Appointment confirmation page (if necessary)
      • Valid passport or travel document with at least one blank page
      • A valid passport-sized photograph of yourself
      • Evidence of your status in Nigeria
      • Evidence of any previously issued US visas
      • Receipt number of your approved petition
      • Details of any previous criminal history or criminal convictions
      • Details of any medical details that may affect your visa application
      • Details of any previous deportations or removals from the US
      • A letter from your employer detailing your role, your relationship to the company, and the nature and duration of the work you intend to carry out in the US (only for I Representatives of Foreign Media applicants)

      What Are the Fees and Processing Times for a Temporary Worker Permit?

      As of June 2023, if you’re applying for a temporary worker permit that requires your employer to submit a petition, the cost of a work permit will be $205.

      If you’re applying for a temporary worker permit that doesn’t require a petition (i.e. the I Representatives of Foreign Media work permit), the cost of a work permit will be $185.

      You may also have to pay an additional $85 for biometric services, or if you need to have your documents translated into English.

      The cost for an employer to file Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker is $460.

      Processing times for temporary worker permits will vary based on which embassy or consulate you apply with and if there are any complications with your application. However, you can expect your worker permit to be processed within a few days or a few weeks.

      Our team is dedicated to helping Nigerians navigate the US work permit process. Contact Us

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        Permanent (Immigrant) Worker Permits

        If you’re a Nigerian who wishes to work in the US indefinitely and wishes to settle in the US on a permanent basis, a Permanent (Immigrant) worker permit may be the right fit for you.

        There are five main categories of permanent work permits, each of which cover specific types of workers and roles.

        Some temporary work permits in the US will require you to first have a confirmed offer of employment from an eligible US employer. The employer must then file a petition to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on your behalf. They may also have to acquire a labour certification from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL).

        After this petition is approved, you can then apply for your visa from your local US embassy or consulate.

        Permanent US work permits will allow you to settle in the US permanently and eventually apply for US citizenship, just like other Green Card-based visas.

        List of Permanent (Immigrant) Worker Permits

        Overview

        Permanent US work permits come in five categories, also known as “preferences”. Details of these preferences, who they are for and what they allow the holder to do are listed in the following subsections.

        First Preference EB-1

        The EB-1 visa is for certain individuals with exceptional talent or certain executives or managers.

        There are three categories of applicants for the EB-1 visa:

        • Individuals with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics through sustained national or international acclaim
        • Outstanding professors or researchers with international recognition for their achievements in a particular academic field
        • Certain multinational managers or executives

        To apply for this visa, you will need an offer of employment from a US employer, unless you’re applying as an individual with extraordinary ability. If you’re applying under this category, you must instead show that you’ll be continuing to work in your area of expertise in the US.

        Second Preference EB-2

        The EB-2 visa is for those looking to work in roles requiring advanced degrees, or someone who can demonstrate exceptional talent.

        The eligibility criteria for these two categories are as follows:

        • Advanced degree: the job you’re applying for must require an advanced degree and you must possess such degree or an equivalent level qualification
        • Exceptional ability: you must demonstrate exceptional ability in the sciences, arts, or business, defined by USCIS as “means a degree of expertise significantly above that ordinarily encountered in the sciences, arts, or business”

        You must normally obtain an offer of employment from a US employer to be eligible for an EB-2 visa. The employer must also obtain an Application for Permanent Employment Certification from the Department of Labor, unless they can obtain a national interest waiver instead.

        Third Preference EB-3

        The EB-3 visa is for skilled workers, professionals or other types of eligible unskilled workers.

        Some of the main eligibility criteria for these these categories are as follows:

        • Skilled workers: you must possess at least two years of relevant job experience
        • Professionals: you must show that you have a baccalaureate degree or an equivalent, and that a degree is a necessary requirement for the work you wish to carry out
        • Unskilled workers (other workers): you must demonstrate that you can perform unskilled labour (requiring less than 2 years training or experience) that is not considered temporary or seasonal work

        All applicants for the EB-3 visa, regardless of the category in which they apply, must:

        • Have a confirmed job offer from a US employer
        • Be employed by a business that has obtained a labour certification
        • Be performing work for which qualified workers are not available in the US

        Fourth Preference EB-4

        The EB-4 visa is for what USCIS deems “special immigrants”. These include (but are not limited to) the following:

        • Religious workers
        • Special Immigrant Juveniles
        • Certain broadcasters
        • Certain retired officers or employees of a G-4 international organisation or NATO-6 civilian employees and their family members
        • Certain physicians licensed and practising medicine in a U.S. state as of 9 January 1978
        • Noncitizens who have supplied information concerning a criminal organisation or enterprise or a terrorist organisation, enterprise, or operation

        Depending on the category you apply for, your employer may have to file  Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant. Otherwise, you may have to self-petition on your own behalf.

        Fifth Preference EB-5

        The EB-5 visa is for business investors looking to settle in the US by investing in an American business.

        The eligibility criteria for this visa are as follows:

        • You must invest a certain amount of capital in a new commercial enterprise in the US:
          • $1,050,000, or
          • $800,000 if the investment is in a Targeted Employment Area
        • Your investment must create at least 10 full-time positions

        To apply for this visa, you must fill in either Form I-526, Immigrant Petition by Standalone Investor, or Form I-526E, Immigrant Petition by Regional Center Investor.

        Contact us today to kick-start your journey towards a fulfilling US work experience with confidence and expertise by your side! Contact Us

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          How Can I Apply for a Permanent Worker Permit?

          There are several steps when applying for a permanent work permit.

          The first step, if it applies to you, is for your employer to obtain a labour certification from the U.S. Department of Labor.

          A labour certification will prove to USCIS that there is a shortage of available, qualified, and willing American workers to fill the role. It will also demonstrate that hiring a foreign worker won’t adversely affect the wages and working conditions of similar workers in the US.

          The next step is the employer filing for a petition to USCIS, if necessary. They must do this by filing Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers. They may also have to provide additional information to USCIS regarding the specific eligibility criteria for the visa being applied for to have the petition approved.

          After the petition has been approved, you will then need to apply for your chosen visa with the US Department of State (DOS). This may involve attending a medical examination, and also a visa interview at your local US embassy or consulate. Interviews are mandatory for all applicants aged 14 to 79.

          For Nigerian citizens, there are two US consulates operating in Abuja and Lagos.

          After your interview, the consular officer will review your application and either approve or reject your visa application.

          What Are the Required Documents for a Permanent Worker Permit?

          The documents you will need to submit with your permanent worker permit may include (but not be limited to) the following:

          • Form DS-260, Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration Application
          • Appointment confirmation page (if necessary)
          • Valid passport or travel document with at least one blank page
          • A valid passport-sized photograph of yourself
          • Evidence of any previously issued US visas
          • Receipt number of your approved petition
          • Details of any previous criminal history or criminal convictions
          • Details of any medical details that may affect your visa application
          • Details of any previous deportations or removals from the US
          • Proof of financial support
          • Medical examination forms

          What Are the Fees and Processing Times for a Permanent Worker Permit?

          The cost of filing Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, is $1,140.

          Employers will also have to pay $700 to file Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers.

          You may also have to pay an additional $85 for biometric services, or if you need to have your documents translated into English.

          Processing times for temporary worker permits will vary based on which embassy or consulate you apply with and if there are any complications with your application. However, you can expect your worker permit to be processed within a few weeks to several months.

          How Can IAS Help?

          The US has a huge range of work permits to suit almost any kind of skilled, unskilled or professional worker.

          However, figuring out which one is right for you can be difficult or even overwhelming.

          IAS can help. We offer complete, bespoke immigration advice for Nigerians in Nigeria, the US and internationally. Our trusted immigration lawyers have worked on hundreds of cases, securing success for our clients in a wide range of situations.

          Whether you need help in determining which work permit is right for you, require help with the application or petition process, or just need to talk with a professional on a one-to-one basis to help assess your situation, we can help.

          We have offices in the US and Nigeria and can provide immediate assistance to help you to apply for a work permit. For help with your immigration situation, call us on +44 (0) 3316300929 or +23413438882 if you’re in Nigeria. Or, contact us online.

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                    Frequently Asked Questions

                    Generally speaking, yes. Most US work visas will allow you to bring your spouse and any dependent children under the age of 21 with you to the US.

                    Normally, this will be in the form of a complementary visa in a similar category to your own work visa.

                    Note, however, that your spouse will not be able to work in the US in most circumstances.

                    It’s important to note that there are two scenarios where your work permit application may not be approved.

                    If your case has been denied, it means that USCIS have reviewed your case and have found you ineligible to receive a work permit. In this instance, you should either attempt to apply for an alternative visa or seek legal help if you wish to appeal the denial.

                    If your case has been refused, it means that you’ve made a filing error that needs to be rectified before USCIS can continue to review your application.

                    It is strongly recommended to seek the help of a professional immigration lawyer in the event of work permit refusals. IAS’ lawyers can help you with the process of appealing a work permit denial, as well as helping to solve any admin or eligibility issues with your application. Call us on +44 (0) 3316300929 or +23413438882 if you’re in Nigeria. Or, contact us online.

                    Yes, you may be able to extend your temporary work visa in the US if you meet the following criteria:

                    • You were lawfully admitted into the United States with a nonimmigrant visa
                    • Your nonimmigrant visa status is still valid
                    • You have not committed any crimes that make you ineligible for a visa
                    • You have not violated the conditions of your admission
                    • Your passport is valid and will remain valid for the duration of your stay

                    If all of these apply, you should file Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status.

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